South African industry is constrained by the increasing gap between the number of available skilled welders and the demand for skilled welders, asserts Free State-based specialist welder training organisation SIH Training Expertise training manager Styles Hood.
He adds that not many newly skilled welders are being trained, while existing welders have reached or are approaching retirement.
This will have an impact on large-scale capi- tal expansion projects, such as State-owned electricity utility Eskom’s new generation projects, as well as projects to be undertaken by synthetic fuels group Sasol and transport utility Transnet, which all require skilled welders.
“As a result of the low standard of training, the industry cannot meet the demand for skilled welders for major projects.
“Local training to produce skilled welders is lacking and further education and training (FET) colleges focus only on equipping learners with basic welding skills. These are obstacles facing the industry.”
He notes that this has resulted in South Africa importing the much-needed skills.
Hood states the industry needs coded or A-class welders, who have passed an X-ray test to verify the quality of their work. Before hiring new recruits, employers assess them by means of a weld they have to perform, after which a test is conducted with an X-ray to check the welding quality.
However, he says FET colleges and most training providers do not require learners to pass X-ray tests to complete their studies and that this contributes to the reluctance of employers to hire newly trained welders because they are not confident that the candidate has the required skills.
“The X-ray test is conducted in accordance with international standards, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) IX code and European EN 287 standard, which govern the coding of welders.
“If a candidate welds a test piece, which is X-ray tested and approved, he then becomes an ASME IX- or EN 287-coded welder,” explains Hood.
To increase the number of skilled welders in South Africa, he suggests more focus should be placed on properly training welders instead of teaching them only the basic skills.
He believes learners should gain practical experience by working on the new capital expansion projects that are in progress.
SIH has developed a three-month double-coded welding programme to ensure learners can be employed by industry immediately after completing their training.
The organisation certifies all learners to ASME IX standards on both 50 nominal bore (NB) and 150 NB carbon steel pipes in a 5G horizontal position.
In a 5G position, the axis of the pipe is hori- zontal and the pipe is not turned or rolled during the welding operation.
Included in the programme is shield metal arc welding (SMAW) in all positions, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding on plate and in all posi- tions, TIG welding on pipe up to a 5G position, as well as combined TIG welding and SMAW on pipe, also up to a 5G position.
SIH approaches employers in the industry to assist learners in securing apprenticeships that will reinforce the skills and knowledge they acquire through training.
The three-month course also comprises health and safety training and explains welding drawings, symbols, codes and specifications that govern welding.
The identification of weld joints, as well as defects and how to rectify these are also taught at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level two.
The SMAW and TIG processes are taught at NQF level three.
SIH has three assessors and five facilitators, as well as the capacity to train 120 learners a year on the three-month programme at its training centre in Sasolburg.
“We also offer a six-month full-time practical training programme, which enables a novice to progress to being a coded welder on 12 NB, 50 NB and 150 NB carbon steel pipes in a 6G position (45º angle).
“This programme is directed more at employers that want to train their staff and there is a higher cost involved. We also develop specific programmes to suit our customers’ process requirements and will code the learners according to their process specification, such as welding stainless steel, chrome alloys and aluminium,” says Hood.
SIH is accredited by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority.